Kristina Mladenovic turned the support she received from the home crowd at the French Open on Friday and turned it into a sensational come-from-behind victory against Shelby Rogers. With that, she set up a fourth round contest with defending champion Gabrine Muguruza who made her way forward with a relatively simple victory.
Mladenovic came back from 2-5 down in the third set to beat United States’ Rogers 7-5, 4-6, 8-6. “I have no words to describe the love I have for you. Honestly, I went through so many emotions during this match that I don’t know what to say. Your support helps me so much. I had goose bumps,” she said after the match where the crowd enthusiastically and loudly cheered “Kiki! Kiki!” to spur the Frenchwoman on who is a strong contender for the title. She reached the final of Madrid and Stuttgart in the run up to the French Open. The end target? Lift the Suzanne Lenglen Cup and become the first French woman to do so since Mary Pierce did in 2000.
Mladenovic who had started the tournament with back problems and played through the pain in a three hour marathon was once again pushed to the brink on Friday by Rogers. But as she looked to be headed towards the exit door, she brought on her big forehand to cause trouble for Rogers and closed out numerous points with gutsy cross court winners.
“Physically I’m very confident. I could have run for another hour,” said Mladenovic. “The back is another question, it’s still there, I still struggle, especially with my serve. I just fight with everything I have.” She served 13 double faults and won only 42 per cent of the points on her second serve.
On the other hand, Muguruza’s passage forward didn’t involve such drama or loud adulations and support from the Parisian faithful. Playing on showcourt earlier on Day 6, the Spaniard kept her run going and the organisers breathed a sigh of relief with the women’s side already bereft of big names. She avoided a banana skin type of contest against Kazakh Yulia Putintseva by winning 7-5, 6-2.